In this chapter, Grantaire finally gets in touch with Combeferre to discuss his dilemma, because there is clearly a big difference between a puppy and an Enjolras-sphinx, even if both are legally classified as pets.
Prologue; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
Part Four: Summoning Service
"Come on come on come on, I do not want to listen to this recording again." Grantaire paces around the box that Enjolras had come in, the area where it's standing being the part of his living room where he can actually see the floor currently. He'll have to figure out what to do with Enjolras' box, come to think of it. Unless Enjolras wants to sleep in the box. Though he hadn't seemed terribly fond of the box when he was let out. Did Novelties sleep in boxes, or on beds, or…?
"—great variety of pets for you to choose from. Do you find the appearance of scales pleasing but have trouble maintaining an aquarium? Do you wish that you could touch a fish's scales without harming the creature? A merman may be the perfect pet for you. State the name of a particular hybrid or one of the desired genetic contributors and you will trigger an interactive menu at any time. Otherwise the brochure will continue. Do you find yourself longing to own something with the softest fur imaginable? Any of our rabbit crosses are guaranteed to have the soft coat of a Rex rabbit for a nominal charge. Do you want horns on your rabbit, to impress your friends with the terrible Jackalope? Or do you simply want the long ears, the silky coat, but large enough to hold at night, less fragile than a true rabbit? Exotic and wild, gentle and soft, the Home creates pets to fit all needs. A cat that can feed itself. A cat with wings. Whatever you desire—"
"I don't desire any of it. I do not need another pet." Grantaire moans the words into the phone. "I already have one pet too many. What I need is to talk to his trainer."
"Do you wish for us to connect you with an operator?" The question breaks the flow of information, the female voice soft and apologetic but still with that faint buzzing overlay that tells him it's a machine rather than a person.
"No." Grantaire would very much like to throw himself down on his couch, but it is currently occupied by a Sphinx with lashing tail and rattling wings who is getting far too invested in the video game that Grantaire set up for him. "I just need the operator who's working with me to find Combeferre."
"An operator will pick up the line shortly, sir." The computerized voice is still meek and apologetic.
"Oh, no, I didn't mean—undo or abort or stop or something."
"Stopping." There's a brief pause during which only white noise is audible, and then a cheerful female voice picks up. "The Home greatly appreciates your time and interest. Would you like to be connected with an operator, or would you like the audio brochure to begin playing again?"
He would like to punch whoever thought it was a good idea to have standardized playbacks listen for and react to keywords. He would like to be able to grouse and complain to himself without annoying every poor operator the Home has. He would not like to listen to all the interesting and exotic pets that the Home could sell to him for the low, low price of what small houses cost. Given the options, though, "I'd like to listen to the brochure again."
The recording picks up right where it had left off, describing in loving detail to him all the different combinations of animals and traits that he could get. Never mentioning the word human, though, never mentioning that the Novelties can talk, and Grantaire finds himself frowning as he studies Enjolras' tense form.
"Hello?" The voice that picks up is male, a light, uncertain tenor, and decidedly human. "This is Combeferre. Can I help you?"
"Hi, yes, I think so. I hope so." Grantaire holds the phone closer to his ear again, his attention snapped away from Enjolras. "Is this Combeferre?"
"Yes." The man on the other end of the phone draws the word out slightly, clearly not impressed with Grantaire's intelligence, and Grantaire winces, realizing that the trainer had already given his name.
Trying to pick up the thread of the conversation, Grantaire turns resolutely away from the video game that Enjolras is currently losing with spectacular flare. "And you're a Novelty trainer?"
"As well as a Novelty healer, yes."
"Do you know a Sphinx who calls himself 1789? A pret—handso—cu—a blond lion body, bright blue eyes, likes to ta—"
"I think I know the Novelty you're talking about, yes." Combeferre's voice cuts over Grantaire's unexpectedly, almost hurriedly. "I've been working with him for a little over a year. You're the one who bought him?"
"I'm the one who ended up with him, anyway."
"Is there a problem with 1789?"
"No. I just…" Grantaire looks up at Enjolras in time to catch the Sphinx's mouth opening in an angry snarl as the death screen comes up on the television set. After only a second of bared white teeth the Sphinx very carefully presses the start button on the controller with one extended claw and resumes playing. "I don't know what to do with him. And he mentioned your name, that he'd like to see you again, so I thought… maybe you could come by, maybe you could help me with him. Do you mind that I called?"
"No. Not at all." Combeferre's voice somehow slides from tense and almost panicked into the smooth, practiced tones of a doctor reassuring a patient in those four words. "The Home is always eager to provide support for its clientele in any way that we can. Has 1789 been causing any trouble?"
Another frustrated snarl, with an underlying bass rumble to it that Grantaire has only heard in movies featuring lions and tigers, rolls through the room. "Not… trouble per se. I just wasn't expecting to be a pet owner, he's a gift, you see, and he's… not what I expected a Novelty to be like."
"Every Novelty is different and unique." Combeferre's tone is tense again, his words rushed. "It can always be trying having a new pet, especially if one wasn't expecting it. Have you had a chance to look at the informational brochure that came with him?"
"Informational brochure?" Grantaire blinks. "I'm pretty sure he didn't come with one."
"All the Novelties come with one." It's clear from his tone that Combeferre's frowning. "It should have been in the transportation box with him."
"Oh." Opening the seam that he had found originally, Grantaire folds the front of the transportation box down again. Peering into the box, he frowns. "I don't see… oh, there is something. It's taped to the bottom of the box, in a waterproof bag. Why do… no, don't answer that, I'm pretty sure I know. All right. I have the informational brochure. Wow, there's actually a paper copy."
"The Home spares no expense for its clientele. Paper or computerized, we want our customers to have information available to them in whatever form they desire."
"Information would be good right about now." Grantaire hefts the surprisingly large book in the thankfully dry waterproof bag. It might actually be fun to read a real book rather than something on his comp pad or laptop, though he's glad there's a searchable computerized version included. "Does it explain what to do with him?"
"Could you explain what you mean by do with him?" Combeferre's voice is mildly disapproving. "He's a pet. You take care of him."
"Well, yeah, but…" Grantaire looks over at Enjolras as another low snarl rumbles through the room. "He's really, really not what I expected. Where do I buy Novelty stuff—I'm not exactly living in the richest part of town, he's going to stick out here. And I don't have any equipment for him. Where do I have him sleep? What do I feed him? Is there stuff that's toxic for him? How do I—"
"You haven't fed him yet? He was packed up over twelve hours ago." Combeferre's voice is far angrier than Grantaire expected.
"I fed him!"
"Without knowing if what you were feeding him was safe or not? What did you feed him?"
"Uh, a beef and pea microwavable dinner. That's safe, right? It's not going to hurt him?" Grantaire stares at Enjolras, panic suddenly pouring through him, tasting hot and sour in the back of his throat. He hadn't even thought about the fact that Enjolras might need special food. Enjolras looks all right, but what if he's not? What if Grantaire gave him something that's going to make him sick? What if Grantaire did something to justify the uncertainty that had been in Enjolras' beautiful blue eyes from the moment he stepped out of the box until Grantaire named him?
What if Grantaire poisoned his pet, his strange talking almost-human pet, before he'd even had him for an hour?
"Grantaire? Grantaire, are you still there? It's fine. Beef and peas is fine for one meal, though if it's high-sodium we should avoid that long-term." Combeferre's voice finally breaks through the panic. "Grantaire?"
"Uh huh. It's all right." Swallowing hard, Grantaire draws a deep breath and forces the rest of the anxiety to fade back so he can continue his conversation. "That's good. I'm glad he's going to be all right. I really do want to take good care of him, I swear I do. I fed him as soon as he said he was hungry, I just… didn't think that maybe I should look for an instruction manual on feeding him. I didn't know pets came with an instruction manual."
"Most pets don't come with an instruction manual, but Novelties are a little bit different from your standard cat or dog. And even among Novelties, 1789 is a very special pet." Combeferre's voice is gentle, conciliatory, and Grantaire believes that he means it, that the trainer just isn't spouting the Home's usual rhetoric.
"I believe that." Grantaire sighs. "So, I have an instruction manual, and it will tell me how to feed him and take care of him and all that. Do you think you could still maybe come over, see him? Like I said, he's been ask—"
"I will gladly come and help with anything you require. The Home takes care of its customers and its pets, from the beginning to the end of their lives. Just give me your address, and I'll be there as soon as I can be. Depending on your location, it might not be today, but I promise I'll be there to help you soon and I'll give you my personal number in case you have questions at any time."
"Really? Great." Grantaire grins as he takes down Combeferre's number and gives his home address. "Enjolras is going to be absolutely ecstatic to see you, I'm sure of it."
"Enjolras?" Combeferre's voice mixes surprise and approval.
"It's what I named him." Trying not to feel self-conscious, Grantiare finds himself shrugging despite the fact that Combeferre clearly can't see him, this not being a vid convo. "It seemed more appropriate than some of the more… standard Novelty and pet names."
"I think it's a wonderful name for him." There's honest warm approval in Combeferre's voice for the first time. "And I should be able to come by this evening, if you don't mind it being a little late, sometime between eight thirty and nine."
"I don't mind. Though… suggestions on what to do for dinner? And, uh, suggestions about bathroom habits? He's probably got to go by now."
Combeferre makes a sound that starts suspiciously close to a laugh but becomes a hoarse cough. "Like all Novelties, he's been trained both to use a standard human bathroom and to use the type of facilities most commonly associated with his dominant cross-species, in this case a litter box. Given his size if you elect to go the litter box route I would recommend—"
"You can stop right there, because if he can use a human toilet he gets to use a human toilet." Grantaire makes a mental note to clean the bathroom a bit so that Enjolras can fit in there comfortably. And to clean the toilet, because he's heard cats do weird things like pee on coats when they feel their litter box isn't clean enough and he'd hate to see what kind of mischief Enjolras could get up to. "And dinner?"
"At least seventy-five percent protein. Lean and low-sodium is better, just like with a person. Some carbohydrate source is needed, be it pasta or bread or something of the sort, because he's not actually an obligate carnivore, just closer to one than you are. The Sphinx digestive system is balanced more to the cat than the human side, you see. No onions. No garlic. No grapes. Minimal alcohol—you can give a Sphinx a drink, but he's much more prone to alcohol poisoning and liver damage than a human of his size and weight would be. No over the counter pain medications, they'll destroy his kidneys and liver. I think that should keep you from doing anything too catastrophic until I get there."
Grantaire mouths the list of negations to himself and then nods. "I'll try not to kill him until you get here."
"That is appreciated, but despite my words he's a bit harder to kill than I think you're giving him credit for. I'm sure the two of you will do fine. Do you have any other questions for me?"
"Not off the top of my head." Grantaire weighs the instructional manual in his hand once more. "I'll be sure to have a list ready when you get here, though."
"I'll try to answer all your questions. Have a good afternoon, Grantaire." Combeferre's voice is warm, friendly, and then shifts abruptly, becoming much less personable. "And thank you for your business with the Home. We appreciate your custom, and hope that we can continue to work with you for many years."
"Yeah. Me, too." Grantaire frowns at the phone. "See you this afternoon."
The line goes dead, and Grantaire shakes his head, walking over to stand at the side of the couch and watch Enjolras die once more. The Sphinx's brows are drawn together, his expression fixed in a very human look of stubborn determination as he carefully pushes the button to restart with one extended claw again.
All he has to do is keep Enjolras alive for five more hours. Then he'll have someone here who can help explain to him what he's supposed to do with the Sphinx, Enjolras will get to see the trainer who clearly made a very intense and positive impression on him, and life will start making a bit more sense again.